Alfred Wegener (1880-1930)

Alfred Wegener was a German born geologist, whose work involved geophysics and meteorology. Wegener’s studies at university included physics, astronomy, and meteorology, and he also gained a PhD in Astronomy. After university Wegener’s work focussed more on meteorology and climatology.

His achievements included adopting the use of weather balloons to track air masses, and producing a series of lectures titled ‘The Thermodynamics Of The Atmosphere’, which was adopted as a standard text by meteorology scholars. Another key paper titled ‘Origins Of Continents And Oceans’ was published in 1915.

Wegener is most famous for his continental drift theory, which was first proposed in 1912. When he presented this theory, he proposed that the different continents were slowly moving or drifting around the earth’s surface. When it was first proposed, the continental drift theory was accepted as merely that, a theory, which was met with scepticism and opposition. Further discoveries and research, and a build-up of support, led to the theory finally being accepted in the 1950’s.

Along with his lectures, Wegener also took on some field work, which involved expeditions to Greenland to look at polar air circulation, and an ambitious plan to monitor Arctic weather for a year. Although the expedition attracted investment, and was, despite setbacks, initially a success, transfer of supplies between camps in harsh conditions, led to Wegener’s death. He died in November 1930, leaving behind some key contributions in his field of geology.